Industrial Cart Coffee Table

I apologize in advance for the lack of process photos in this post. Turns out, fine sawdust is not so good for my wife’s camera, so I’m hesitant to bring it out and risk messing it up for her. Until I resolve this camera crisis, process pictures may be a little scarce.

Anyway, I’ve been suffering from an ever-growing list of projects that I want to finish, and they’re all getting stuck behind my current guitar build. Yesterday I decided that it was time to simply finish something before I get too bogged down. Too many ideas and too few concrete accomplishments can be counter-productive. I needed a finished product, so I put the final touches on a coffee table that had sat at 80% completion for about, oh, six months or more. It’s been sitting in the basement gather dust and junk ever since I finished building it. Unfortunately, it was too ugly to actually use, so we didn’t want it anywhere else in the house.

That needed to change, and last night it did.

Here’s what I was working with. I got the idea to build an industrial factory cart. Something that looked like it had seen many hard years in a factory, because old industrial stuff is cool, I guess. I wanted it to look re-purposed, so people could look at it and think, “Man, this guy finds cool new uses for old things, that’s so smart and green of him!”

Of course, it’s not re-purposed. I used new lumber for it, distressed to look old. I’ll at least give myself credit for using new lumber that I bought for cheap because it was the cast-off stuff at the hardwood store. So at least I was using scraps…sort of.

First thing I did when I built this table was distress the wood. I needed it to look used and abused, so I, well, abused it. I lined the boards up on my drive way and drove over it with my Buick, repeatedly. I smashed it with my hammer. I gouged it with a belt sander. I put 40 years of fake industrial wear and tear on that wood in about 45 minutes.

Constructing the cart/table was simple enough. This isn’t something that requires any great woodworking skill. It’s supposed to be rough around the edges, so there is plenty of room for mistakes.

I put some big old caster on it, and that’s how I left it for a very long time.

Last night I decided to finish it off. The table is made of poplar, which is ugly wood that needs painting or staining. Unfortunately, poplar won’t take a typical stain very well. It reacts with the stain and gets really splotchy. A friend of mine tipped me off that gel stains work well on poplar, so I bought an antiue walnut gel stain and rubbed it on in my living room while watching Minnesota beat up on Indiana at the fake Assembly Hall last night. Here’s what I ended up with (besides a headache from breathing in too many gel stain fumes).

Turned out looking a lot like antique walnut, I’m pleased to report! It feels good to check something off my project list, and this coffee table can double as a furniture dolly, or a very dangerous summer bobsled.

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